Cruelty Legislation

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In Canada, both federal and provincial governments have animal cruelty laws.

Federal Legislation:

At the federal level, animal cruelty is governed by Sections 444 to 447 of the Criminal Code of Canada. In 1999, Justice Minister Anne McLellan tabled Bill C-17, a bill designed to modernize and improve those sections of the Criminal Code.

However, the bill died a year later when a federal election was called. It was resurrected again in 2001 as Bill C-15. Between 2001 and 2006, it was amended and re-introduced numerous times: Bill C-15B, Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-22, Bill C-50. It died in 2006 when the Liberal government was defeated and Conservative Stephen Harper formed a minority government. The Senate was primarily responsible for the failure of the then Liberal government to pass its own animal cruelty amendments.

Under the Harper minority government, two private members’ bills were introduced. The first, Bill C-373, was introduced by Ajax-Pickering Liberal MP Mark Holland, on October 30, 2006, and was essentially the same as the previous Bill C-50. The bill died when the House prorogued on September 14, 2007.

The second, S-24, was originally introduced by Liberal Senator Bryden in February, 2005. Bryden used only the improved penalty section from Bill C-50. The rest of the sections remained unchanged from the old Criminal Code wording. The final iteration of this bill, S-203 passed the Senate and the House and received Royal Assent April 17th 2008.

No further amendments have been proposed. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has an excellent overview of the bills at

From the time Bill C-17 was tabled to today, Animal Alliance worked to have the federal animal cruelty laws amended. We lobbied the federal government to adopt protective animal cruelty laws and worked with other animal protection organizations to pressure the government. Sections 444 to 447 of the Criminal Code of Canada remain outdated and insufficient to protect animals subjected to abuse and cruelty.

We need to keep the pressure on the Minister of Justice to strengthen federal legislation to better protect all animals. Please mail, e-mail or call. Letters can be mailed postage free.

Provincial Legislation:

As the legislative summaries below demonstrate, provincial animal welfare acts exempt most animal use industries.


Alberta’s Animal Protection Act exempts animal care, management and husbandry, hunting, fishing, trapping, pest control and slaughter from the prohibition causing distress.

The Manitoba Animal Care Act considers suffering, injury, harm, anxiety or distress acceptable for animals in agricultural, exhibitions and fairs, zoological displays, slaughter, medical care, animal discipline and training, protection of people or property, sporting events, fishing and hunting, trapping, research and teaching involving animals, pest and predator control; euthanasia of animals; and any other activity designated by the regulations as an accepted activity.

The required standards for animal care contained in the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (OSPCA Act) do not apply to agricultural animals. Other classes of animals, animals living in prescribed circumstances or conditions or prescribed activities, may also be exempt with the result that most animal use activities do not have to meet basic standards of care and are exempt from provincial animal cruelty charges. In addition the Act exempts activities causing distress to wildlife in the wild, including fish; agricultural animals or prescribed classes of animals or animals living in prescribed circumstances or conditions, or prescribed activities. In total close to 700,000,000 animals will receive no protection under the “new and improved” provincial animal cruelty laws. For a brief article on the OSPCA Act and Bill 50, click here.

The Nova Scotia Act to Protect Animals and to Aid Animals that are in Distress does not apply to wildlife that is not in captivity, agricultural animals or animals used for research and testing.

Below are links to summaries of provincial animal welfare legislation, with corresponding dates indicating when the summary was prepared.

Alberta - Act and Regulations (February 2009) Nunavut Dog Act (May 2012)
British Columbia (January 2009) Ontario (January 2009)

Manitoba (June 2009)

Prince Edward Island
New Brunswick Quebec (September 2009)
Newfoundland and Labrador Saskatchewan (May 2009)
Northwest Territories Yukon
Nova Scotia (November 2008)

What You Can Do:

Please write, call or e-mail your Premier today, asking for stronger provincial anti-cruelty legislation for the animals.

As well, we need to keep pressure on the Minister of Justice to strengthen federal legislation to protect animals better. So please, mail and call him today! Letters can be mailed postage-free.

The Honourable Peter MacKay

Minister of Justice
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Tel: 613-992-6022
Fax: 613-992-2337